Judge rules in Savisaar trial

Harju County Court has ruled in the first stage of former Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar’s corruption trial, even though Savisaar has not been a part of proceedings for some time after he was exempt from standing trial over his poor health.

The recent ruling concerns the four remaining accused in the case: MP Kalev Kallo, owner of Silikaat Grupp Vello Kunman, major owner of construction firm Rand & Tuulberg Aivar Tuulberg and legendary Tallinn businessman, owner of the Meriton Hotel Alexander Kofkin. All four have maintained their innocence throughout the trial.

Major sums returned

The fact that the Office of the Prosecutor General felt so confident about its evidence that it sought three-month prison sentences, among other penalties, for Kallo, Tuulberg and Kofkin placed judge Anne Rebane’s decision in even starker contrast. The court acquitted Kunman and Tuulberg as it found necessary elements of a criminal offense had not been produced, while the criminal episode of businessman Alexander Kofkin was terminated due to sensible time-limits on proceedings having come and gone. Center Party MP Kalev Kallo was the only one to be punished.

The court also ordered the release of €80,000 seized from Edgar Savisaar and for the state to pay his legal expenses on €3,237.

Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern said that the prosecution always counts on the possibility of the accused being acquitted. “I cannot describe the ruling as a disappointment for the prosecution, while we wanted a conviction and not an acquittal, of course,” he said.

Pern said that the court did not explain based on what evidence the accused were acquitted nor what it found lacking in the work of prosecutors and investigators. “I cannot say whether we have done poor work or whether there have been shortcomings before reading the full text of the ruling,” Pern added.

Next instance

The Harju County Court received the prosecution’s appeal by Tuesday evening. Kalev Kallo’s defender Kristi Rande also said she plans to appeal her client’s case in circuit court.

Savisaar case timeline

2014

July 27

The Office of the Prosecutor General launches criminal proceedings to look into suspicions of corruption against then Center Party chairman and Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar.

2015

September 22

The Estonian Internal Security Service arrests Savisaar at his Hundisilma Farm on suspicions of having repeatedly accepted bribes. Over €200,000 in cash is seized from Savisaar’s home. Major owner of Porto Franco OÜ Hillar Teder, head of the Tallinn city council Kalev Kallo (Center), owner of Silikaat Grupp Vello Kunman, his adviser and former top politician Villu Reiljan, major owner of Rand & Tuulberg Aivar Tuulberg, businessman Alexander Kofkin and advertising businessman Paavo Pettai are suspected of offering and facilitating bribes. The Center Party is suspected of taking a bribe.

September 30

Harju County Court removes Savisaar from the office of mayor for fear of the politician misusing his official position to tamper with witnesses.

2016

November 29

The Office of the Prosecutor General charges Savisaar, the Center Party, Teder, Kallo, Kunman, Reiljan, Tuulberg and Kofkin with corruption and sends the case to court. Pettai avoids charges in exchange for cooperating with the prosecutors.

2017

June 12

Harju County Court opens the trial of Savisaar and the other accused. Everyone, including Teder, pleads not guilty.

October 19

The court finds Reiljan guilty of facilitating a bribe from Kunman to Savisaar in agreement process and punishes him with a fine of over €33,000.

2018

June 5

The court exempts Savisaar from standing trial based on endocrinologist Vallo Volke’s expert opinion that attending court sessions could be life-threatening for Savisaar.

August 14

Tallinn Circuit Court finds that exempting Savisaar from proceedings was premature and he can still be tried.

December 21

The Supreme Court exempts Savisaar from the trial for good due to his medical conditions.

The state’s case moves into the hands of Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern after Steven-Hristo Evestus quits the Office of the Prosecutor General.

2019

June 18

Teder admits to secretly funding the Center Party. The businessman wanted to exchange a property in Kadriorg for a plot owned by the city. In return, he offered a loan of €275,000 that would have been used to pay for the party’s advertising expenses. The prosecution cuts a deal with Teder based on lack of public interest to prosecute and the businessman is ordered to pay €200,000 into state proceeds. The county court separates proceedings pertaining to the Center Party from the Savisaar trial after the party signals it wants to cut a deal.

September 5

Harju County Court approves a deal between the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Center Party that sees the party plead guilty to accepting a secret donation. The party is fined €275,000 of which €25,000 needs to be paid immediately. The rest of the fine is conditional.

2020

January 14

Harju County Court finds Kallo guilty of fostering and facilitating bribes and hands him an 18-month conditional sentence with a probation period of two years. Businessmen Aivar Tuulberg and Vello Kunman are acquitted over lack of necessary elements of a criminal offense. The criminal episode of businessman Alexander Kofkin is terminated due to sensible time-limits on proceedings having passed.

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